Smartphone head to head: Lumia 950 vs Huawei P9

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With smartphone design converging ever more closely these days (in terms of specs and form factor), at least it makes it easier to compare devices directly. In this case Microsoft's standard sized flagship, the Windows 10 Mobile-powered Lumia 950, and Huawei's new equivalent, the Android-powered P9, which is in for review. Here's how the two contenders stack up...

Lumia 950 and Huawei P9

Each device, as usual, has its strengths and weaknesses, but these two aren't that apart in the overall scheme of things. As usual, I've shaded in green an obvious 'win' for either device, I honestly have no idea which way this one's going to go (as I start to compile the feature)... Any row where a winner would be totally subjective is left uncoloured. Or, where both devices are utterly excellent but in different ways, I've given both a 'green'(!)

[By the way, if you're viewing this feature on an older Windows Phone then the table may well cause you problems. Try viewing in landscape mode? Failing that, go view this on a laptop or tablet?]

  Microsoft Lumia 950 Huawei P9
Date first available December 2015 April 2016
Current price, availability £365 (SIM-free in the UK, inc VAT, via Amazon UK) £450, SIM-free, availability still restricted though
Dimensions, form factor, weight 145 x 73 x 8mm, feels relatively light, thanks to all the plastic, though I did go and put a slightly heavier leather Mozo case on...(!) Polycarbonate, replaceable back/sides (hosting NFC and Qi coils). Weight is 150g 145 x 71 x 7mm, surprisingly light (reminded me of the budget Lumia 650, actually), 144g, aluminium sides and back, feels very premium
Operating system, interface Windows 10 Mobile, (dismissable) virtual controls
EMUI 4.1 skin on top of Android 6.0, no application list or tray, so everything's on the homescreens/folders. Virtual controls, permanently on-screen for most applications
Display  5.2" AMOLED with ClearBlack Display polarisers, QHD resolution, Glance screen, Sunlight Readability enhancements, Gorilla Glass 3 5.2" LCD 1080p resolution, good contrast outdoors thanks to modern IPS technology - but it doesn't quite match Nokia's CBD. Protected by Gorilla Glass 4, though.
Connectivity Up to LTE (all bands), Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, nanoSIM, Continuum connectivity to use external displays as secondary screen, independent of the phone display (with full universal application resolution handling) Up to LTE (all bands), NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, nanoSIM
Processor, performance Snapdragon 808 chipset, 3GB RAM, pretty fast for many operations, though transitions and general Windows 10 interface cruft/refreshes do get in the way sometimes. HiSilicon Kirin 955 chipset, 3GB RAM (4GB in some markets), very fast, as Android typically is, with minimal transitions. Have to give the win here on speed.
32GB plus microSD up to 2TB, independent of number of SIMs (e.g. in a dual SIM variant). Comes with a year's Office 365 with 1TB of integrated online storage, too (via built-in Lumia Offers app) Up to 64GB internal storage (review device was 32GB), plus microSD 'up to 128GB' if the card slot isn't already taken up with a second SIM (etc.)
Biometrics Iris recognition - works well enough, but still a couple of seconds - at least - and is not 100% if you wear glasses. Always-on fingerprint sensor on the back, very fast and reliable. In conjunction with NFC, this will be useful for Android Pay systems later in 2016.
Imaging (stills)

20MP PureView f/1.9 1/2.4" BSI sensor, PDAF, ZEISS-made optics, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, triple LED flash, genuine 2x lossless digital zoom (in 8MP oversampled mode), OIS. 'Rich Capture' produces customisable HDR shots and 'dynamic flash'. Outstanding shots in most light conditions, with just focussing issues in low light.

5MP front camera

'Dual' 12MP, both f/2.2 BSI sensors (though one colour and one 'black and white), Leica-approved optics (not actually made by them, though), dual LED flash, laser auto-focus plus PDAF. Dual captures do allow for Depth-of-Field special effects after capture, combining and blurring the images as needed. Generally very good results, especially in low light, there will be a camera phone shootout coming imminently. Ultimately (physics wins) the 950 outguns the P9, despite its dual sensor trickery, and triumphs in imaging, apart from niche dark cases where focussing is too tricky on the Lumia.

8MP front camera

Imaging (video) 4K, digitally and optically stabilised, with 'Best photo' 8MP grabbing built-in, plus Rich Recording and quad HAAC microphones for high quality stereo capture 1080p video capture, stereo audio
Music and Multimedia Decent mono speaker, loud enough and 'deep' enough, 3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+APT-X, DLNA Very similar, again a decent mono speaker, no complaints, 3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+APT-X, DLNA
Navigation  Windows 10 Maps includes most of the best of HERE Maps/Drive, uses the same data, adds a degree of live traffic awareness, plus public transport. Includes full offline maps with automatic updates. Some UI issues for anyone with less than perfect eyesight, but the latest versions on 'Redstone' have a much better revamped interface.

Google Maps and navigation is excellent, with better offline capabilities in the last few months, and with great live traffic integration and re-routing. There's also HERE Maps now, if the user knows to go look for it, so the best of all worlds, if we're honest.

Cortana/Voice Cortana is now mature and well integrated, and with a surprising degree of 'assistance'. More integration with applications and email (etc) are planned this year, Google Now and voice queries are good and on a par with Cortana overall. See my round-up feature. Some integration with Gmail for life planning etc.
Battery, life 

Removable 3000mAh battery, gets through a day (just, on latest firmware), plus USB Type C and Qi wireless charging built-in. Gets the win here because of the power and battery options, not because of life per charge!

The charger supplied outputs a full 3A at 5V.

Sealed 3000mAh battery, easily gets through a day, loads of power profiles and options. USB Type C charging only.

The charger supplied outputs at 2A at 5V.

Cloud aids and miscellany Windows Photos syncs across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff, should you have thousands of images in the system. Most people reading this will have various historical 'bonuses' to bump up their tariff, though new users to Microsoft's OS and ecosystem will have to be careful if they want this to be free. Google Photos syncs across all Android devices, genuinely infinite storage (with an allowance for recompression/optimisation by Google). Curiously, there's also Huawei's Gallery application, one of several apps which have obvious and confusing duplication (email, Calendar and others also apply here)...
Applications and ecosystem  Windows Phone now has just about every mainstream app covered, aside from Snapchat and Tinder. A vast number of niche/boutique apps are often an issue, though... Also anything to do with Google services! Fully covered, from A-Z, these days. Any application of any significance in the mobile world is available for Android. 
Upgrades and future Windows 10 Mobile will be updated through daily Store updates, plus occasional base firmware and OS updates through 2016/2017/2018. Our editorial device is on the 'Anniversary update', codename Redstone, with weekly Insider updates. Should see updates through 2016 and 2017, will definitely get Android 7.0 later this year.

Lumia 950 and Huawei P9


So a 6-5 narrow win to the Lumia 950 in terms of green cells above, which I suspect Android fans will put down to bias because of my familiarity with Windows. But, if anything, this emphasises just how highly specified the 950 and 950 XL are, especially on the display and imaging fronts.

Not that these necessarily counter-balance the relative paucity in the application ecosystem, but I stand behind the opinion that if you don't need more than a dozen high profile applications and games on your smartphone then Windows 10 Mobile and the Lumia 950 range are actually valid choices. And hey, the Lumia 950 is now almost £100 cheaper than the Huawei P9, though admittedly the latter's launch price will also drop to around the same level in the next six months.

Comments welcome!

Lumia 950 and Huawei P9